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The annual consultation for supervisors

Last updated on 9 February 2022
The annual consultation is intended to allow employees and their supervisors to review the previous period and discuss what they need from each other in the coming period to improve performance, utilize talent, boost job satisfaction and reduce the workload.

The annual consultation is a dialogue. The supervisor and the employee are jointly responsible for the proper preparation of the interview and for expressing themselves. The annual consultation has no fixed format or assessment system, and contains no mandatory topics of conversation. The only obligation is that the annual consultation is held every year. We want to guarantee that every employee has the option of having a well-prepared consultation with a supervisor at least once a year.

The annual consultation for supervisors

  • Initiating an annual consultation

    In 2021, there is a modified process for starting an annual consultation. The manager starts the annual consultation form manually. In the service portal you can read how to do this. After the startup, the employee receives a task to fill in the annual consultation form. 

    As of 2022, the employee will automatically receive a task to start up the annual consultation form at the beginning of the year. The employee can start filling out the form at any time. Employee and manager agree on when the annual review will take place and when the employee will complete the task.  

    The employee can submit agenda items, comment on performance and development goals, and add a reflection. The manager completes the annual consultation form. All information is archived in the form of a conversation form and attachments. 

  • Parties involved in the annual consultation

    The annual consultation is first and foremost a discussion between the employee and his or her supervisor. Other parties involved in the annual consultation are: 

    • Colleagues that give feedback. The manager can ask colleagues for feedback in the process of the annual consultation. The feedback is automatically attached to the annual consultation form. The employee can ask for feedback at any time, not linked to the annual consultation process. Motivate the employee to ask for feedback as well, not just in the run-up to the annual consultation, but also during the rest of the year. 
    • Optional: a co-manager. If the employee has a second manager, for example a functional supervisor or a project manager for a specific task, then this manager may also be invited to play a part in the annual consultation. This co-manager can also be present at the annual consultation. Make sure the co-manager is added to the annual consultation process before the step in which you as a manager give input. In the service portal are instructions available.   
    • The HR Advisor. The HR Advisor can advise the manager and the employee on the annual consultation. The HR Advisor has access to active and archived forms. 
    • The immediate manager. The manager’s manager has access to active and archived forms.
  • Preparation

    The employee gives input on the annual consultation form by adding topics of conversation, a reflection on performance and development goals and a general reflection on the performance, the agreements, the personal development wishes and the cooperation with the manager. If you would like your employee to talk about a specific subject, make sure to inform them well in advance. Ask coworkers for feedback. Be as specific as possible in your feedback question and make sure to link your question where possible to the employee’s personal development goals or career goals.

  • Setting the agenda

    The annual consultation does not contain mandatory topics of conversation. he manager and the employee both contribute topics for the agenda to be discussed during the interview. The employee and manager can submit points for the agenda in the annual consultation form. Make a list of questions the employee wants to discuss at the start of the interview and add your own items to the agenda. Consider at least the following topics in preparing for the interview:    

    • workload 
    • social well-being and a safe social setting 
    • development, employability and sustainable employability 
    • new ancillary activities or changes in these activities 
    • team performance
  • A conversation about performance

    During the annual consultation we will not use scores or other assessment systems. However, this does not mean that the annual consultation is entirely free of obligation and that performance cannot be discussed. In order to have a useful conversation about personal development and talent, it is important to know if you and your employee have the same views on current performance and possible changes. A few tips to start a discussion about performance: 

    • Discuss whether you and your employee have the same views on performance. Do you agree with what the employee has written in their reflection? If the two of you have different views, what caused this and which adjustments could you make to resolve the situation? Are the expectations clear? Does your employee get enough feedback from you and their colleagues? Does your employee ask you or colleagues for feedback? 
    • Discuss the agreements from the previous annual consultation. Has the employee achieved the goals previously agreed? If not, what was the reason? What does this mean for future agreements? Is it time to make a different type of agreement (more or less specific and measurable) or is it necessary to discuss progress more often and update agreements? 
    • Which changes do you expect in the organization, in the professional field or in your department and what does this mean for your future expectations of the employee? What growth is necessary to stay up to date and/or continue to be a genuine asset? For example, use the results and expectations from the staff review or strategic personnel planning (SPP). 
  • Career and development

    The annual consultation is an excellent occasion to discuss personal development in the broadest sense of the word. Talk to employees who want to take a new step in their career about whether this is possible and if the employee is on the right track. Also talk to the employee if you think a next step isn’t feasible and whether it’s time to adjust expectations. If your employee is satisfied in their current position, then please review if the employee can remain a genuine asset and can continue to grow with changes in the organization. 

    • Use criteria and frameworks such as the university job ranking system, faculty yardsticks, the Teaching Performance Framework or other agreements within your unit for conversations about career and personal development goals.
    • Some positions or career steps will be subject to an assessment opportunity, for example at the end of a tenure track or PhD programme. You can use the annual consultation to discuss if the criteria are clear and to find out if the employee is on the right track to making a successful career step. 
    • Also discuss career options outside of VU Amsterdam, as it may not always be possible to achieve career goals within VU Amsterdam. 
    • In terms of personal development, look at talents first and the areas in which an employee is doing well and shows promise for further growth. Focusing on what employees are good at leads to better performance than working on weaker areas. Find out how the talent in your team is distributed and whether a redistribution of tasks could be a way to improve the utilization of talents. 
    • Find out which core tasks best suit the employee. It may be possible to focus on one core task in a specific period or to set up a different distribution of tasks within the team. 
    • Personal development is about more than completing a training course. Also consider other development opportunities, such as a temporary project, a job-shadowing placement or transferring knowledge and experience.
  • Make agreements: SMART or not?

    In the annual consultation, the supervisor and employee make agreements for the coming period on matters including performance and personal development. It can sometimes be good to make these agreements as specific and measurable as possible (SMART), for instance when a certain result is required. Sometimes it might be better to formulate an agreement more like a guideline, for example if the circumstances can quickly change or if you want to set the bar a little higher for an ambitious employee. For every appointment, discuss:  

    • the desired outcome, for example a specific result or observable behaviour; 
    • what kind of support is available, for example support from a manager or colleagues who can help; 
    • how you both monitor progress and how often. 
  • Reporting

    The manager completes the annual consultation form and ensures that a good report of the conversation and agreements is recorded. The employee can read the report and give a reaction. The manager can still adjust the form in this phase. The manager then finalizes the form and it is automatically archived.

  • The annual consultation for employees who do not live up to expectations

    In the event that your employee is not performing at the desired level, then please discuss this as soon as possible. This issue should not be discussed for the first time in the annual consultation. For the annual consultation, employees are asked to reflect and translate experiences into concrete plans for the future. If no meeting about performance has taken place, then it is too early to ask the employee to reflect and the employee might have the wrong expectations of the annual consultation. Plan a meeting first in which you focus on discussing the issues with performance, your expectations and a plan to improve performance. 

    If these actions do not lead to the desired improvement, start an improvement plan. For this you can use the improvement form, which covers all the topics that are important in an improvement plan. Contact the HR Advisor before starting this form.

  • Frequently asked questions

    Below you will find answers to frequently asked questions. Detailed information about the annual consultation process can be found in the manual.

    How do I start up the annual consultation?

    In 2021, the manager will start up the annual consultation manually. You can do this via the button ‘Take action now’ on the right top corner for this page. Then, you click on the blue button to go to the self service and create a new form in Performance Documents. Select the annual consultation form and the employee. The screen with the evaluation dates cannot be adjusted: it indicates the period in which the form is active (the calendar year). It does not determine the period of time you discuss in the annual consultation. That is determined by the date of the interview, which is recorded in the form. Click on Start form: the form is now forwarded to the employee for input. Read the QRC for more information. 

    In 2022, the procedure will change: all employees who have an annual consultation will automatically receive a task at the beginning of the calendar year to start up and complete the consultation form.

    Are the agreements from the previous annual consultation (in the previous system) automatically retrieved?

    No, due to the new design of the form it was not possible to retrieve old appointments in a new form. The employee fills in the old appointments once at Performance goals and Development goals (see QRC). The employee can find the appointments from the previous annual consultation form in the Personnel File. To access the file, the employee must be logged into the VU campus. If the link does not work, ask the employee to contact IT for the correct authorizations. In subsequent annual consultations, the appointments are automatically retrieved again.

    Can I add an attachment to the annual consultation form?

    Yes, in the top right corner of the annual consultation form you will see a paperclip. If you click on it, you can add an attachment. Both employees and managers can upload an attachment.

    How do I request feedback for the annual consultation?

    The manager can request feedback during the annual consultation process via the team overview in Performance documents. The feedback is linked to the form. The employee can request feedback separately from the annual appraisal form via the Feedback option. More explanation can be found in the QRC.

    How do I add a co-manager?

    In the QRC you can read how to add a co-manager to the annual consultation form. Do this before the employee transfers the form to you as manager. Otherwise the co-manager will not receive the form.